Teach to learn not to pass a test

For over two decades, I’ve been on a mission to demystify computers for seniors, constantly seeking innovative methods to simplify complex tech concepts. A significant part of my journey involves listening to seniors express their frustrations with computers and their struggles to grasp technology. This interaction has been instrumental in shaping my teaching approach.

One critical observation I’ve made is the common instructional focus on the “How” – a step-by-step process involving specific clicks to achieve a task. However, this method has several drawbacks:

  1. Lack of Understanding: Students aren’t explained the reason behind their actions.
  2. Inadequate Navigation Skills: They aren’t taught how to explore menus for solutions.
  3. Obsolescence with Updates: Frequent software updates can alter processes, causing confusion and panic among seniors.
  4. Focus on Features, Not Utility: Instructions often highlight what software can do, rather than why it’s useful.
  5. The Challenge of Memorization: Relying on memory for complex steps can be overwhelming and stressful for seniors.

Why Over How: A More Adaptable Approach

Emphasizing the “Why” in computer classes changes the learning dynamic. It transforms screen elements from mere objects to click into meaningful tools with specific purposes. This comprehension-based approach remains effective even when software updates alter icons or terminology.

For instance, take the ‘Instant Alpha’ feature on a Mac, used for removing image backgrounds. It’s a tool I’ve used for years. However, its name was changed to “Remove Background from Image” in a recent update. While I was accustomed to the old term, the new name is more intuitive. This exemplifies how understanding the purpose of a tool is more crucial than remembering its name.

Comprehension Removes Fear

Teaching seniors the rationale behind each action reduces their fear of technology. It shifts their concern from “Am I doing this wrong?” to understanding the functionality of the software. This approach fosters confidence rather than apprehension about using computers.

Our Training Philosophy: Emphasis on Understanding

At MacMason, our classes are structured to cultivate an understanding of the software’s purpose. We prioritize the “Why” over the “How”. Once seniors grasp the underlying reason behind a function, the methods to achieve it become more accessible. Our goal is to empower seniors with knowledge that makes technology a comfortable and useful part of their lives, not a source of stress.

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